A case of voting fraud by ACORN employees in Columbia three years ago has ended without any public penalties for those involved.
In October 2006, the Richland County Voter Registration Office heard from a person who had received a new voter registration card without applying for it, and the county learned the application was turned in by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
The State Law Enforcement Division investigated and learned the group had recruited four Benedict College students to register new voters. The group's political advisor found some had questionable entries and didn't send them in for processing. When the questionable entries were found, the advisor fired all four after they were on the job for two weeks, according to a report by SLED investigator Jerry Merritt.
Merritt signed affidavits in the misdemeanor cases against two of the students. Both were charged with election law violations for false swearing in applying for registration. SLED referred further questions to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office.
Asked about the outcome of those charges, Assistant Solicitor Elizabeth Levy said state law allows for expungement in certain minor criminal cases. "If those cases were expunged, I cannot comment on whether they ever existed," she said.
The Richland County Clerk of Court's Web site showed the charge filed against one of the students, but said the charge was disposed as of January 2009. There was no information on the outcome.
Since then, ACORN has had a minimal presence in South Carolina, and its Columbia telephone line and e-mail address have been defunct for several months.
Still, the group has some supporters in the state. U.S. Rep. and House Majority Whip James Clyburn cast the sole vote in the state's congressional delegation against yanking ACORN's federal funding in the wake of videotapes that showed ACORN employees giving tax and other advice to undercover reporters posing as a pimp and prostitute.
ACORN, a community activist group, said Tuesday it has selected a former Massachusetts attorney general to investigate its housing program and other public service projects.
Democrat Scott Harshbarger, a lawyer whose specialties include corporate governance, will conduct the internal investigation. The group said the review would be "aggressive, thorough and far-reaching."
Clyburn said that's how it should be. "ACORN should be thoroughly investigated, and those that broke the law should be punished," he said. "Congress didn't ban federal contracts to Haliburton after its numerous abuses were uncovered. I think we set a bad precedent if Congress begins targeting individual companies and organizations for exclusion."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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